An illustrious career. A band I never thought I’d get to write about. The men, the myth, the legends: Death Cab for Cutie. Making all cry during rom-coms and secretly in their car when they reach that part of Transatlanticism, Death Cab may just be the world’s favorite group of Sad Boys.
With the release of Kintsugi and the departure of Chris Walla back in 2015, Death Cab made it clear that there was stylistic change afoot. I happen to love Kintsugi, but I’m sure there were fans who decided to tearfully remove “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” from their iPods. The band has followed in the footsteps of Kintsugi with their latest offering, Thank You for Today.
I enjoyed all three singles the band gave us leading up to the release of the album. They’ve all got the same Death Cab flair: a little sad; a little hopeful. But it’s still new. It takes lyricists and musicians like the members of such a timeless band like Death Cab to keep me believing that music can still be new but familiar. There’s no need for a band to genre jump to stay relevant anymore and that’s a beautiful thing.
The album is lyrically what you’d expect from Death Cab for Cutie. Using a lot of geographical and natural references, they build a story about changes in life and the environment around us. Growing up takes a toll on us and Death Cab has always dealt with that concept in a different facet with each album. “Gold Rush” talks about the changing economic landscape of Seattle and how even though good commerce and growth can be positive, there comes a time when enough is enough.
“Your Hurricane” talks about self destruction: “I won’t be the debris / In your hurricane”. Interestingly, they use the same bass line from “Summer Skin”, a track from 2005’s Plans. I wonder whether the person Gibbard left behind at the end of that summer is the same person he’s talking about in this song, 13 years later.
This album is mostly about sad things – I won’t try and pretend that it’s not. “When We Drive” is oddly specific and relatable to me. Driving has become a very cathartic thing for me, in a weird way. If I want to talk to someone about something important, I find the best place for me to get everything out in the open is while driving, for some reason. Maybe it’s the idea of driving away from the problem, or maybe it’s the opposite – driving toward a solution.
So, I said this album is about life changes. “Summer Years”, “Autumn Love”, and “Northern Lights” are about breakups. Old news, I guess. But what about, “You Moved Away”? Gibbard uses such visceral imagery here: yard sales, going away parties. This just might be one of the most personal and relatable Death Cab songs to date.
“Near/Far” struck a personal chord. Getting closer and closer to my wedding, I have no doubt that the person I’m marrying has my back. I’ve found myself dealing with more and more confusion the further I get into adulthood, and that’s turned into a pretty big amount of anxiety at times. There are times when I feel far away. The line at the end of the track echoes something my fiancé tells me all the time: “But I won’t watch you burning out / I won’t let you be the one I live without”.
The album ends with “60 & Punk”. Gibbard shared with Consequence of Sound that he’d rather not let everyone know who this song is for. So, even though we can see that it’s written about one person or band, I can’t help but see myself in this song. A fan who’s been disappointed by their hero. I can also see this being about Gibbard himself. From what I’ve heard and seen, a musician’s life can be lonely and not as glamorous as we think. There’s a lot of missed family time. A lot of missed memories.
So at the end of this album we have an oeuvre of how life can change. Buildings are torn down, friends move away and out of our life, people we thought loved us unconditionally walk out. Thank You for Today is a collection of songs about people who’ve helped us grow up and get to where we are, even though their impact may have been more negative than positive. Without the harder points in life, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate the better parts.
Maybe we’ll never figure out why virtually every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs are sad. But I think it’s comforting to know that when we’re sad, whatever the reason is, we have a band that wants us to know that everyone’s been there.
by Nadia Paiva
Nadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.